#75 - Just for Show

African Violet

This is a speech I made at the Eglinton-Yonge Toastmasters which expands on the premise of the original Podcast

Just for Show

My premise here is that the elaborate preparations for a Show event which allow the contestant to show themselves at their very best can lead to unnatural results.

Speaking first of African Violets where growing for Show does not necessarily produce the best product.

If you'd ever been to an African Violet Show you would remember glorious plants on display with their blue and red ribbons and rosettes for Best in Class or Best in Show. Often these plants are for sale, after the judging, near the end of the Show. The temptation is here to buy these marvelous plants. My advice is "Don't" and soon I'll tell you why.

First, another example on the topic. Bodybuilding Competitions which you may have seen in the news or on television Sports channels are where muscled and well-proportioned men and women, their bodies gleaming with oil, are posing and flexing. They seem to be the epitome of health and fitness. Wrong! Their perfection has been forced by an extreme diet and overexertion. They are dehydrated, since this is the state in which the delineation of musculature is most pronounced. They are least healthy when ready to compete. Like bulbs indoors, anticipating Spring they too have been forced to grow unnaturally.

Back to those African Violet Show plants, whose growth has also been forced. These plants have been subjected to a rigorous regimen of fertilizer, light, water and the prior plucking of all blooms. They are poised for the magic date when they are ready for the Show. These plants are as beautiful as they will ever be but their beauty is fleeting. All preparations are aimed at that magical Show date.

Producing blooms takes a lot of plant energy. This Show violet has been trying to bloom with increasing effort. The plant has been thwarted so that it will produce its best blooms for that magical Spring Show. The special Countdown-to-Show clock begins ticking until they are finally allowed to bloom. They will never be this perfect again. You can almost fancy a sigh of relief as the plant, finally, wins its blue ribbon and can relax and just grow normally again.

You may buy the plant and take it home. Assuming you have not made the usual beginner's mistake of killing the plant by over-watering, the plant lives. Not having a plant light stand, perhaps you place it on your windowsill. Within a week or so its glorious head of blooms wither and die. When next it blooms the flowers are fewer, smaller and not the same brilliant hue as they were previously. The changes in light and temperature take effect. Leaves, which had formed a geometrically perfect circle around the plant, grow in less symmetrical profusion.
Less than perfect blooms and leaves are completely natural. You can still enjoy the plant in its natural state, expecting the plant to be always perfect is unnatural.

Like the bodybuilder during competition, your plant has excelled and, having done so, deserves a well-earned rest.

There are other “Just for Show” examples such as intensive preparation for a Final Exam at school. All your efforts in this regard can get you a good mark. You are at your best in your knowledge of the subject. This knowledge is not part of your daily life and, over time, the facts fade from memory and eventually you may not even remember the name of the class.
Any sport that requires energetic preparation for the Final Match, again sees success to some degree. Stop training and that excellent form will become just a memory.

The African Violet show plants or the bodybuilder at the top of their form will never be quite that perfect again. That being said there's no shame in not being perfect. Indeed, this is an argument against perfection. It is enough to do your best as your natural self. Humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and each is perfectly natural in their own special way and, to my mind, although they may not be perfect for Show all are perfect in their unforced nature.

When we were living in New York City my partner at that time was taking my daughter to her ballet lesson when he spotted a parked car and in the back seat was a famous singer and actress, Lena Horne. He dragged my daughter over to the vehicle and knocked on the car window. Her security determined he was harmless and rolled down the car window. He cried out “This is my daughter, Lena. She wants to be just like you!”

Lena Horne replied calmly to my young daughter , “Just be yourself, honey. Just be yourself.”

There’s a lesson in that. The highest ranks of success require great striving but what gets you to your destination is not Just for Show but a steady progression of just doing your job and just being yourself, just being your own personal best.

Wavy Line

© Sonia Brock 2017-2021

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